Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Stone him?

This has been bothering me since Saturday morning...

When I got to shul, I realized that it was pretty warm inside, which was surprising since there weren't a ton of people there, and given that it was December in Chicago. A cursory glance at the thermostat, which happens to be right next to my seat, revealed that the temp was set to 73 degrees instead of the usual 68. I shrugged my shoulders and prepared myself for a couple of hours of being uncomfortable.

Half an hour later, JS walks into shul. JS is an FFB, a man with some personality issues, a gambler and alcoholic, and a very wealthy man. After approximately fifteen minutes, he too realizes that the shul is unusually warm. He stands up, walks across the room into the row of seats in front of me, grins at a few people looking at his actions, and proceeds to press the buttons on the thermostat.

Everyone grins back. I am not sure if the rabbi, whose seat faces the congregation, caught this little drama.

How this can happen in a "Centrist Modern Orthodox" shul, without any reprecussions, disgusts me. Not that I care about what JS does, but the feeling I get that most of the people that call themselves MO, really never spend much time thinking about the O part of that label.

Question for my readers - does this happen in other communities as well?


Anonymous B. Spinoza said...

I've seen you comment on blogs many times but I still don' know if you believe in TMS or not. Do you believe that JS violated God's commandment?

December 18, 2007 5:34 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

Hmm, my view on TMS is probably too confused and disjointed to put into a comment, but I will say that I am pretty skeptical of the traditional Orthodox conception of TMS, especially the mesorah aspect and the powers of Chazal.

I don't believe that JS is in trouble because he violated a Divine commandment. My issue is with the reaction of the shul members at such a brazen and public violation of the Sabbath. What message does it send to all of us?

December 18, 2007 6:09 PM  
Blogger Tobie said...

I think that the problem was basically diffusion of responsibility ("Should I say something? Somebody else should say something! Nobody's saying anything? Why isn't anybody else saying something?") combined with the fact that he had already done the deed. There was no way of preventing him and no real purpose served by berating him.

I'm not sure what would have happened in a frummer shul. Probably somebody would have told the rabbi and dumped all the responsibility on his shoulders.

December 19, 2007 2:39 AM  
Blogger Shoshana said...

This actually kinda reminds me of a famous case in NY where a woman was being brutally assaulted and killed on a street. There were many people who witnessed the crime, but no one did anything, because no one was doing anything. Psychologically, it's very difficult for one person to stand up against what the crowd is doing, and tacit approval or at least inability to step up, is a huge barrier to someone saying something in a large crowd. It has been shown in studies that the more people who witness such an obvious display, with no one doing anything, the less likely it will be for any one person to say anything.

December 19, 2007 6:21 AM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

tobie and shoshana,

I agree that part of this has to do with not wanting to get involved. I know I didn't want to start anything, though I considered seriously talking to the rabbi. Unfortunately based on previous experience, I don't believe the rabbi would have the cojones to actually say anything to a major shul donor.

I guess this is mostly an emotional reaction and I am not even sure who I am most upset with. In general I believe in following rules, even if I don't agree with them all. This is the basis for human society.

Part of me is upset because I feel that this guy flaunted it in public. I don't care what he does at home, but to do it in an orthodox shul is disrespectful to the whole community. If I were invited to a japanese house, I would take off my shoes when I walk in, even if that is not something I would ever do at home - it is a sign of respect. How a guy who was raised frum and is living in a frum community not be cognizant of this is beyond me.
But it isn't just him. The people who saw this were not just not getting involved, they were laughing at this, essentially complicit in the behavior. I know this because I have seen this behavior many times before in our community. I am not a scholar, but what is the halachic responsibility of witnesses to a violation of Shabbat?

December 19, 2007 7:31 AM  
Blogger jewish philosopher said...

In my shul, which I would call very centerist, he would have been kicked out by the rabbi.

December 19, 2007 8:06 AM  
Blogger Yosef said...

If you think he'll listen and follow, then there is an obligation to rebuke him, regardless that no-one else is calling him on the issue.
If you think he won't, then you shouldn't, because that just makes things worse.

sidenote: for what is TMS an abbreviation?

December 20, 2007 9:50 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

TMS = Torah mi Sinai

December 20, 2007 10:30 PM  

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